Bayern Munich kick off the 2016-17 Bundesliga season on Friday as they host Werder Bremen at the Allianz Arena. And although the season hasn't even kicked off yet and the Bavarians are set to take their first steps under new coach Carlo Ancelotti, they are resounding favorites.
With the club having won an unprecedented four consecutive league titles, it's just hard to see any other result.
Bayern have dominated the rest of the Bundesliga financially for a long time, but only in the last few years has the German league gained a reputation as a "one-team" division. But as the champions have become consistent and predictable, a one-team league is what the Bundesliga has become.
There are many schools of thought on how the level of competition in a domestic league can affect competition on the international stage.
To some, having less domestic-league competition means a club can focus on the Champions League. In the spring of 2012, Chelsea were hopelessly out of the Premier League title race but still alive in Europe.
The Stamford Bridge club stormed to the final and were crowned champions of Europe, despite finishing sixth in the Premier League and five points behind what would have been the English top flight's fourth and final Champions League spot had the Blues not won the competition.
On the other hand, having weak domestic competition hasn't exactly helped Paris Saint-Germain since their takeover by Qatar Sports Investments. Les Parisiens have won the last four Ligue 1 titles, yet they have been knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage in each of the last four seasons.
There are many other examples that can be cited, supporting both a correlation and an inverse correlation between the level of domestic competition and international performance. The only logical conclusion is that there is more to be considered than simply those two variables.
This article will attempt to explain how the level of competition among Bundesliga clubs will be greater this year than in the last, and that this will help Bayern in the Champions League.
The first point to address is that competition in the Bundesliga is greater now than it has been in recent years.
Firstly, let's consider four-time Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund. Thomas Tuchel's side may have lost their best attacking midfielder (Henrikh Mkhitaryan), holding midfielder (Ilkay Gundogan) and defender (Mats Hummels, to Bayern) during the summer, but BVB are arguably more suited now to be competitive in the Bundesliga.
The loss of many among Dortmund's best players will be felt, but that will be more in bigger domestic games (of which there are few) and in the Champions League.
Winning the Bundesliga is about endurance and consistency more than anything else; Bayern know this well, having had a losing record against other top-six finishers in the 2014-15 Bundesliga and winning just three of 10 matches against them. However, they still clinched the league by 10 points.
Having brought in a wide range of top prospects (Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor and academy graduate Felix Passlack, for example) and players of established quality (Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze and more), BVB have excellent depth to make them a competitive force in the Bundesliga.
Jonny Walsh @jonathanwalsh_
I think, overall, that move shows how much Leverkusen trust Schmidt's style of play. Volland fits it perfectly, should be a great match.2016-5-20 08:00:15
Another club that should be well equipped to contend in the Bundesliga is Bayer Leverkusen. This is partly due to their signing of Kevin Volland, who is a perfect fit under Roger Schmidt, but it is primarily due to the club's incredible range of young talent.
Jonathan Tah (who was called up to Joachim Low's Germany squad for Euro 2016) and Julian Brandt (who was magnificent in the Bundesliga in the spring and carried that form into the Olympic Games) look ready to take the next step, while others such as Benjamin Henrichs and Tin Jedvaj are moving closer to their prime.
Schalke 04 might be better as well; they may have lost Leroy Sane, but the winger wasn't yet a superstar.
Max Meyer, who was excellent at the Olympics, could well contribute more than he and Sane together did in 2015-16. New striker Breel Embolo looks to be a superstar in the making, and the Gelsenkirchen side have shored up their defense with quality signings in the form of experience (Naldo and Coke, even if the latter is set to miss the first few months of the season) and rising talent (Abdul Baba Rahman).
With Markus Weinzierl as head coach and Christian Heidel as sporting director, Schalke look to finally have the right management.
Alex Chaffer @AlexChaffer
Fair to say despite that mistake for the goal, Gladbach have been absolutely outstanding tonight. Wendt and Traore superb on either wing.2016-8-16 20:13:56
There are other clubs that may be improved in 2016-17.
Borussia Monchengladbach look to have a great project in the making despite having lost Granit Xhaka. With another year of experience under his belt, Mahmoud Dahoud will be better this season, while Christoph Kramer is a great replacement in central midfield for the departed Arsenal man. Gladbach have excellent depth and class around the pitch.
Hoffenheim, with Olympics star Niklas Sule and rising talents like Philipp Ochs and Jeremy Toljan, should also be better as they play in their first full season under Julian Nagelsmann.
Bayern will have to try harder to maintain their dominance in Germany, although their fate is decidedly in their hands. But they will not be worn out by their domestic opponents and shouldn't be hampered in the Champions League.
A key difference between the Bundesliga and many other top-flight league competitions is that Germany has a month-long break in midseason. Players can recover from injuries and take some much-needed rest during that time. Thus, if Bayern play a tough domestic game in February or March, it shouldn't have the same effect as it would for an English team that never had a break.
Having a higher standard of opposition will help keep Bayern sharp, so they won't be able to get away with carelessness or anything less than full effort, diminishing the possibility of their showing up to a Champions League match and not flicking the "on" switch.
It will make their play more consistent: They won't necessarily be able to throw five forwards into any situation, as they often did under Pep Guardiola, and their tactics therefore will not be so widely different in the two competitions. Overall, Bayern's game will be more automatized and more replicable on a regular basis.
The Bundesliga is improving, at least among teams near the top of the league. And although it's true that having a high level of domestic competition can hamper some teams' success in the Champions League, Bayern are sure to benefit.
They will have to fight more, but the winter break and their exceptional depth will keep them fresh throughout the long season, while playing consistently better opposition will keep them sharper than they were in the Champions League under Guardiola.
Bayern have gone three years without a Champions League final appearance; under Ancelotti, the odds are better that the streak will be broken.